Mackie was born in Aldershot but was raised and trained in Edinburgh. In 1892 he visited Brittany and met Paul Sérusier, who brought him into contact with the work of Gauguin and the other Nabis. He worked in Paris in 1893 and again in 1900. Mackie took up woodblock printing around 1898, and his exposure to Nabi and Japanese art was fundamental to the development of both his printing technique and artistic style. Initially Mackie used blocks of cork linoleum, but later, following his contact with Gauguin, began to import oak blocks and Japanese vellum direct from Japan. In 1900 he co-founded and was the first President of the Society of Scottish Artists. In 1917 Mackie became a full Member of the Royal Scottish Academy. He died in Edinburgh in 1920.